Denver reviewing regulations for off-leash dog areas at restaurants, apartments, vet clinics, more

Posted at 4:30 AM, Jul 25, 2018

DENVER-- Denver Animal Protection is proposing new regulations for off-leash dog areas. Those rules could impact restaurants, apartment complexes, vet clinics, doggy day cares and other businesses with off-leash areas.

"Denver has seen an increase in off-leash dog activity in enclosures on private non-residential property, but much of it has been unregulated and is technically illegal, given Denver’s existing laws that generally ban dogs from being off-leash in Denver," according to officials with the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment.

Some of the new rules being considered are:

  • Dogs must be vaccinated and current on their rabies vaccine (with appropriate tags).
  • Persons 10 years of age and younger are not permitted in an Off-Leash Enclosure.
  • A person may not bring more than two (2) dogs at a time to an Off-Leash Enclosure.
  • Anyone seeking to build an off-leash dog enclosure must apply with Denver Animal Protection and is subject to an inspection. The enclosure must meet the following criteria: 
    • Minimum height of five (5) feet along the entire perimeter.
    • A two-gate “Buffer Zone” must be established to allow safe entry into the enclosure and opportunity for an owner to leash and unleash a dog.
    • No more than one (1) dog for every forty (40) square feet of space within the enclosure.
    • Excrement bags and covered waste containers must be provided at all times within the enclosure. 
  • Owners or Operators are responsible for ensuring that all dog excrement and trash are picked up within the enclosure and “Buffer Zone.”  Perimeter barriers must also be cleaned or rinsed to reduce accumulation of dog urine.

The owner of the Watering Bowl, a restaurant that serves food and beverages to dog owners on its outside, off-leash patio, is concerned that the regulations include a possible ban on food and drink in off-leash areas.

"Our business model is built on having beer and pizza with your best friend," Justin Henry said. "That will close us."

He said the food and drink rule would impact others. His interpretation is that it would also mean you couldn't have a cup of coffee, or a bottle of water, with you in an off-leash area at your apartment complex.

"I totally understand the city's position that this industry needs to be regulated, needs to be supervised," Henry said.

He called many of the rules about fencing and gates, "common sense."

However, he's also concerned about the proposed rule banning children under 10 from off-leash areas.

"That's direct discrimination against kids," Henry said. "I don't see need for it."

The city is holding four public hearings on the proposed rules.

The meeting for restaurants is Wednesday at 6 p.m. Learn more here.